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THE EXAMINATIONS                          35

night oil were supposed to lead. The candidates had to get up in the
middle of the night and come to the palace at dawn, bringing their
cold meals with them, for they would not be able to leave until the
examinations were over. During the examinations, they were shut up
in cubicles under the supervision of palace guards. There was a
rigorous system to prevent bribery or favouritism. The candidates'
papers were recopied by official clerks before they were submitted to the
examiners, to avoid recognition of their identity by their handwriting.
In the recopied papers the writers' names were taken out and kept on
file. While the candidates were let out after the examinations, the
judges themselves were shut up within the palace and forbidden to have
any contact with the people outside, usually from late January till early
March, until the papers were properly graded and submitted to the
emperor. The candidates were examined first on questions of history
or principles of government. There was a second examination on the
classics, and finally,4 after the successful ones had been graded, there
was one—under the direct supervision of the emperor—on lyrics,
descriptive poetry (/#), and again, essays on politics. Emperor Jent-
sung was especially anxious to recruit good talent for his government
and took a personal interest in these tests. He sent out the subjects for
the papers by his own personal servants, and sometimes, to avoid
leakage, changed them at the last moment.

Both the Su brothers passed with high honours. Tungpo wrote a
paper which Ouyang Shiu later showed to his colleagues and admired
for days. It dealt with the principle of simplicity and leniency in the
administration of a country, which was Su Tungpo's basic philosophy
of government. However, there was an unfortunate mistake. Ouyang
Shiu was so delighted with the brilliant style and content of the paper
that he thought it must have been written by Tseng Rung, his friend.
In order to avoid criticism he shifted it from the first to the second
place, and thus Su Tungpo came out second in the examinations. On
April 8, 1057, Su passed the examinations, and on April 14, at the age
of twenty, was officially decorated a chinshih, almost at the head of
388 successful candidates. To obtain such an honour meant that one
became at once nationally known as one of the first scholars of the land.

It was typical of the brilliant young man, however, that he took
some liberties with history and invented a dialogue in his paper. He
was developing the theme- that in giving rewards one should rather
err on the side of generosity, and in punishment one should give every
benefit of the doubt to an offender lest an innocent man be killed. In
the time of Emperor Yao, he wrote, a man was about to be condemned
to death. "Three times the minister of justice said: 'Let him be killed!'
and three times Emperor Yao said: 'Let him be pardoned!'" The
dialogue read very well, and it seemed to support an authentic story